A Muslim man who is the official custodian of the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, also know as the "tomb of Christ," has said that he will not welcome U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to one of the holiest Christian sites.
"It has come to our attention that Vice President Pence intends to make an official visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and asked me to receive him officially," said Adeeb Joudeh, the custodian in question, in remarks to Israel's Channel 2 News earlier this week.
"I absolutely refuse to officially welcome the American Vice President Mr. Mike Pence at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and I will not be physically in church during his visit," he asserted.
In June, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
With a vote of 90–0, both Republicans and Democrats in the upper chamber agreed that: "Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected."
Joudeh, however, disagrees, and has condemned the United States for its actions. "This is an expression of my condemnation of President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."
Trump's decision last week to announce that the U.S. will be officially moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was met with widespread condemnation from the Islamic world.
Muslim world leaders, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, warned that the controversial decision could ignite a "fire" in the Middle East, leading to a "great disaster."
Others, such as Jordan's King Abdullah, argued that Palestinians are looking to establish East Jerusalem as their capital, and that Trump's move seeks to undermine that aspiration.
Joudeh was profiled in a Reuters report earlier in November, where he said that "it's a great honor for a Muslim to hold the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is the most important church in Christendom."
The 53-year-old custodian explained that the iron key to the church was entrusted to his family, one of Jerusalem's most prominent clans, back in the time of Saladin, the Muslim conqueror who captured the city in 1187.
As The Times of Israel noted, however, officials at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have not backed Joudeh's boycott, and clarified that he does not speak for the Church.
What is more, Pence, who is scheduled to visit the city next week, has reportedly not made plans to visit the church.
"We didn't receive any formal or informal request and if there is a request, there is a status quo procedure to respect involving the three communities. Anyway, it is not up to one of the key keepers to decide anything about this kind of issue," explained officials for the church, whose custody is shared by Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic authorities.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is believed to contain the tomb where Jesus Christ was rested after the crucifixion, and has been in the news on a number of occasions this past year as it underwent major reconstruction.
Scientific tests from November found that the tomb dates back to the fourth century, matching historical accounts which state that Romans enshrined it somewhere around 326 A.D.
"While it is archaeologically impossible to say that the tomb is the burial site of an individual Jew known as Jesus of Nazareth, who according to New Testament accounts was crucified in Jerusalem in 30 or 33, new dating results put the original construction of today's tomb complex securely in the time of Constantine, Rome's first Christian emperor," National Geographic reported at the time.